Mountain Songbird Research and Conservation

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Montane conifer forests of the Northeast support a distinctive bird assemblage and are threatened by airborne pollutants and human-related development. The small size and isolation of mountaintops impose constraints on organisms, including biologists.

We initiated ecological and demographic studies of Bicknell's Thrush and other montane forest birds over 20 years ago in order to assess the conservation status of this avian community. Our findings have been applied throughout the Northeast in the management of state and national forests, alpine ski areas, timberland management, and ridgeline development projects.

“…only a freak ornithologist would think of leaving the trails [on Mt. Mansfield] for more than a few feet. The discouragingly dense tangles in which Bicknell’s Thrushes dwell have kept their habits long wrapped in mystery.”   (Dr. George Wallace 1939)

VCE has long overcome the practical difficulties of high-elevation field research with the help of collaborators, volunteers, and our own determination to unravel the mysteries of mountain ecology.

PROJECTS

Mercury in the Mountains

Conventional thinking held that the mercury threat was limited to aquatic environments since it is most readily converted to its toxic form (methylmercury) in wetlands. VCE has led groundbreaking research that has revealed elevated mercury levels, not only in birds, but throughout the food web. Learn more »

Mount Mansfield Banding Station

We've monitored bird populations on Vermont's highest peak for over two decades. The montane fir forest is home to a unique group of birds, including Bicknell's Thrush and Blackpoll Warbler. Our data are helping to shed light on population changes, demographics and animal health. Learn more »

Breeding Bird Studies

From assessing the potential impacts of ski slopes to climate change, or unraveling a strange mating behavior, our scientists have been uncovering it all since 1992. All in an effort to have the best science available for conservation. Learn more »

Population Connectivity

Events during each part of a bird's annual cycle likely influence subsequent events. For migratory birds, understanding this has been impossible because of our inability to follow individuals year-round and determine where breeding populations winter, where winter populations breed as well migratory routes. New technology and methods are enabling our scientists to unravel these mysteries and ultimately help with conservation. Learn more »

Mountain Birdwatch

Thousands of intrepid hikers take to the Northeast's iconic mountain trails each summer. For over a decade, hundreds of those hikers have carried along a pair of binoculars, a stopwatch and a clipboard. They've become citizen scientists. Learn more »

International Bicknell's Thrush Conservation Group

In response to heightened conservation concerns for Bicknell’s Thrush, a coalition of scientists, land managers, and planners formed in 2007. The International Bicknell’s Thrush Conservation Group (IBTCG) held its inaugural meeting in Vermont. The group’s overall charge is to develop and implement a Conservation Action Plan for Bicknell’s Thrush. Learn more »